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Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Mystery of Alley Oop

       Halloween costumes have become rather complex in many cases.  Costume licensing is a huge business and each new movie release requires a new envisioning of a costume that in past times had been pretty traditional.  Adding muscles, newly designed logos, or variations in colors and style design means the old costumes might be considered passe.  When I was a child you could just tie a piece of cloth-- like a towel say--around your neck and with a little imagination and your say so you were Superman.  That day is gone. Now check out costumes on the web or in the store and you will find many styles and quality variants of the Superman garb. You can be the Superman from the comic book, the cartoon, or any number of movies. The towel and the imagination are part of an impoverished past.
      A major turning point came about with the 1989 Batman movie.  The various degrees of costume quality in part heavily directed to the adult costume wearer were a hit with the dress up crowd.  The licensing entities of the motion picture industry quickly caught on and it was no longer business as it had been in the past. The license became bigger than ever and more expensive as well.  But there was and is money to be made.  Now you don't just dress up like Batman, you are Batman --"as seen in the movie!".  It's all become a little too slick and in some ways taken away some of the fun.  It's hard to compete in the local costume contest with your homemade slapped together duds when you're up against a professional outfit rented from the costume shop.
        But thinking about the topic of licensing based on popular movies, it got me to thinking about one of my favorite comic characters of my younger days.  Where the heck is Alley Oop?  Granted a lot of people don't know what you're talking about when you mention Alley Oop.  Basketball fans might say that it is a pass of the ball.  Or it's also the name of a football play. Other people might recall the song from about 40 or 50 years back called "Alley Oop".  But where did the name Alley Oop come from?  Well, he was one of the greatest comic book characters of all time as far as I'm concerned.
         For those unfamiliar with Alley Oop he was a caveman who rode around on a dinosaur named Dinny and had an adorable love interest named Ooola.  He was transported into the future by a couple of eccentric scientists who then proceded to bounce him around through hero.  Alley was a muscle-bound guy who was practically naked most of the time, but he was funny and smart.  Great movie material.  And talk about sequels -- the possibilities are endless. 
          For years the Flintstones have been among the most popular Halloween costumes.  People like cavemen and women.  With today's special effects you can really do the dinosaurs good.  The Alley Oop movie would have everything needed for huge money-making licensing opportunities -- action figures, imprinted items, and Halloween costumes.
       Back at the beginning of August I took a road trip to Houston and on the way back to L.A. stopped at Iraan, Texas-- the "birthplace" of Alley Oop.  There is a park there dedicated to his honor.   I had heard of it many years ago and decided that this time I would make a side trip to visit.  Iraan is in the rugged, arid desolation of West Texas.  The country has a stark beauty that is such a striking part of the American West.
With temperatures in the 100's I was certainly thankful for comfortable cars with good air conditioning.  We arrived in town midday.  It didn't look like the sort of place where one would want to spend much time let alone live in. Then we came to empty parking lot for the empty "Alley Oop Fantasyland" park. I saw a couple of lizard and that was about it. It was Monday, but even on weekends this was probably a pretty non-happening place.  The park was well maintained.  There was a small museum that appeared to deal more with prehistory, indigeonous people, and history than Alley Oop, but the museum was closed.  But I was glad that I was there to pay homage to a sadly neglected American icon.  We took some pictures and moved on--that was as about as much as we could do.  However the sidetrip for the scenery alone was worth the detour off of I-10 and I would highly recommend it if you have the time if ever you are passing that way.
         So in closing I want to put my emphatic vote for a big-budget, full blown special effects laden, decent and respectful big screen feature treatment of Alley Oop.  If done right I think it would be a tremendously entertaining film that would could be a franchise with legs to keep it going for years to come. And the licensing potential could be huge.  Hear that Hollywood!  You could make a lot of money.

  
Here I am at "Alley Oop Fantasyland" park in Iraan, Texas posing with the giant bust of Alley Oop himself and with Dinny the Dinosaur.




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